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Transfusion. 2011 Mar;51(3):511-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2010.02865.x. Epub 2010 Aug 30.

Iron deficiency in blood donors: analysis of enrollment data from the REDS-II Donor Iron Status Evaluation (RISE) study.

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  • 1New England Region, American Red Cross Blood Services, Farmington, Connecticut 06032 USA.



Regular blood donors are at risk of iron deficiency, but characteristics that predispose to this condition are poorly defined.


A total of 2425 red blood cell donors, either first-time (FT) or reactivated donors (no donations for 2 years) or frequent donors, were recruited for follow-up. At enrollment, ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), and hemoglobin were determined. Donor variables included demographics, smoking, dietary intake, use of iron supplements, and menstrual and/or pregnancy history. Models to predict two measures of iron deficiency were developed: Absent iron stores (AIS) were indicated by a ferritin level of less than 12 ng/mL and iron-deficient erythropoiesis (IDE) by a log(sTfR/ferritin) value of 2.07 or greater.


A total of 15.0% of donors had AIS and 41.7% IDE. In frequent donors, 16.4 and 48.7% of males had AIS and IDE, respectively, with corresponding proportions of 27.1 and 66.1% for females. Donation intensity was most closely associated with AIS and/or IDE (odds ratios from 5.3 to 52.2 for different donation intensity compared to FT donors). Being female, younger, and/or menstruating also increased the likelihood of having AIS and/or IDE, as did having a lower weight. Marginally significant variables for AIS and/or IDE were being a nonsmoker, previous pregnancy, and not taking iron supplements. Dietary variables were in general unrelated to AIS and/or IDE, as was race and/or ethnicity.


A large proportion of both female and male frequent blood donors have iron depletion. Donation intensity, sex and/or menstrual status, weight, and age are important independent predictors of AIS and/or IDE. Reducing the frequency of blood donation is likely to reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency among blood donors, as might implementing routine iron supplementation.

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